The mostly humorous ramblings of my day to day existence.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Brain of a Middle Aged Computer Nerd.

Do you ever wonder what’s happening under the hood of a computer nerd’s head?
Yes, I am a middle aged computer nerd, which is not to be confused with other kinds of nerds. It’s true that most nerds use computers but that doesn’t mean that they specialize in computer nerdiness. There are science nerds who figure out string theory, there are nerds who are fascinated by the mating rituals of the Tanzanian pigmy worm, and there are nerds that can tell you what Gopher Girl said to her arch nemesis in volume 12 of the comic book Laser Beam Man. There are many types of nerds and even National Geographic hasn’t discovered all of the species.
I’m a hardware and software nerd, which is sort of like being bilingual in the computer world. Starting out working with electronics early on I was there at the dawn of the personal computer age. I remember the invention of the pocket calculator when I was in High School. I had to do formulas in chemistry with a slide rule, and then the next year –just in time for Physics- came the 4 function calculator for $100 Wow, what a bargain! You paid extra to have a square root button. You could do fancy stuff like type in numbers that read “Shell oil” when you turned the calculator upside down.
In the early 80s I remember seeing an ad for a Sinclair ZX-80. Wow the first personal computer that you could purchase for only $200! It had 1k of RAM, which I had to order. With no internet to place the order online I was forced to fill out an order form and send a money order via snail mail.
Nerdy statement alert!
Today’s computers typically have 4GB of RAM, so that’s 4,000,000,000 bytes versus 1000 bytes. A byte = 8 bits, and a bit being a 1 or a 0.
The ZX-80 had no moving graphics, and programs were loaded via cassette tape. I spent hours typing in a hang man program that I saved on tape. The membrane keyboard of the Sinclair ZX-80 was waterproof so if you spilled your beer on it no explosion followed.
Computer equipment used to be very expensive. If I wanted to upgrade my hardware I had to fork over hundreds of dollars. Now people throw away computers because they get annoyed with them. Yes they sometime get rid of them when the break, but sometimes they are simply filled with malware, viruses, spyware and other smelly garbage that some dweeb without the ability to feel empathy turned loose on the world for bragging rights. That would be the malicious computer nerd, not to be confused with the criminal master mind nerd that will try and steal your bank account information.
I like to feel that I’m on the right side of the force (most nerds use Star Wars references), using my light saber with the blue beam to write my Free Software and Computer Help blog. I do battle with the forces of the “Dark Side” that are always looking for innocent victims. I sometimes feel the evil presence of the “Dark Side” breathing heavily while reading my blog and plotting maliciousness to thwart my efforts.
I love giving life back to old machines; giving life back to a once dead machine is like giving life to the Frankenstein monster. Yes, raising the dead is a strange compulsion but no brains need to be collected from the morgue. A better analogy would be like building C3PO out of scraps, and now having a friend who can speak Wookie. Yes there is a point where it just isn’t worth it anymore, but the parts can be recycled to be turned into new computers, or Vespas, it depends on where the materials end up.
Helping someone solve their problem is very satisfying; it’s like giving away the old 1973 camper that fits into the back of a pickup to a family with kids, It makes my heart sing to take away a road block. I stand vigilant always searching for new ways to solve an expensive problem with free software, if I am trying to figure out how to do something with a meager budget then I know someone else is too.
Those Padawan learners that you rely on to solve your tech problems have nothing on me, but they are the future. By teaching them in the ways of the light side of the nerd force, balance will be achieved for the future. New technology will emerge and they will need to master it for good, because there will always be the dark side of the nerd force plotting to take over the world.

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